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Hook’s Message: Trust Us, We’re Unreliable

The State Department (Wikimedia Commons)

The new Trump administration talking point is that Iran should “meet diplomacy with diplomacy,” but there has been no diplomacy for them to respond to. The special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, just made it clear why Iran has no reason talk to the U.S.:

Hook is telling Iran that they have no reason to negotiate a new agreement, since no agreement with the U.S. can now be counted on to outlast the administration that makes it. This is obviously not what you say if you want the other government to talk. It is the sort of thing that an ideologue says to score points and to signal that the U.S. won’t be bound by anything that it negotiates. “You knew I was a snake when you took me in” is not what you say when you want the other side to trust you.

Iranian leaders would be fools to engage in talks under the circumstances. Hook is citing Iran hawks’ reflexive hostility to any agreement with Tehran as proof that the Iranian government should have known better than to make the deal in 2015. Now the Iran hawks are feigning interest in negotiations after reneging on that deal, but why would they be any more likely to honor their side of a new bargain? Hook is announcing that the Trump administration is a bunch of untrustworthy snakes that will bite you as soon as you let your guard down. Is it any wonder that Iranian leaders aren’t jumping at the chance to talk?

There cannot be any lasting international agreements if a new administration reverses everything that its predecessor did simply to spite domestic political opponents. France’s former ambassador to the U.S. chimed in earlier today on this:

Hook’s remarks are a reminder that reneging on the JCPOA wasn’t just a stupid and destructive move as a matter of Iran policy, but will have corrosive effects on the ability of U.S. diplomats to secure any significant bilateral and multilateral agreements in the future. When the administration’s special envoy for Iran all but announces that negotiations are pointless and U.S. commitments are worthless, the Iranian government will get the message, and so will many other governments around the world. The message is that the U.S. is unreliable and untrustworthy.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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